Monday, April 29, 2013

humble bumble

Spring is really here when bumblebees are to be seen pollinating  green alkanet.
one of the crow family, that includes rooks, carrion crows, ravens and jackdaws,  that lives in the woods along the Tamar. It looks like a crow or a raven but in the bright morning sun appears to have a lot of grey on the underside of the wings and throat. The silhouette is typical of a raven, but both crows and ravens are meant to be a glossy black all over. Hooded crows have well defined grey markings but are confined to Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Maybe it is just a trick of the bright light.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


We went in search of the green hairstreak butterfly today. We did not see a single butterfly of any sort, but there were lots of little brown jobs; this bird flew quite close to us for several minutes. It could be a willow warbler, a chiffchaff or a wood warbler. It had a sweet song which suggests it was a willow warbler freshly arrived from overseas, but it is notoriously difficult to tell one lbj from another. Unusually, the jay shown below flew towards us rather than away and displayed its very handsome blue chevrons.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

the black paw gang

the black paw gang hanging out together and looking for trouble. Meanwhile the leaves are almost out.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


this unusual looking bird is a juvenile siskin, the adults lack the mottled appearance on the head and breast feathers. Interestingly, it has been ringed for some reason.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

the wooded valley

this photo, taken in Wareham woods (or Dunterhue woods, the names on the maps vary) looking West towards Carthamartha and Dunterton, gives a good idea of the wooded nature of the Tamar valley. The river is just visible through the trees at the bottom of the photograph (about 150 feet below). The  conical hill to the right in the background is a hill fort, Carthamartha. These hill forts are the remnants of a line of defensive fortifications guarding the points where the Tamar can be forded easily.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

on St George's day

Unlike other parts of Britain whose national days are celebrated with great relish, England's St George's day is ignored especially by our churlish national broadcaster, the BBC. On this glorious Spring day there are no roses in blossom to photograph, but the cherry blossom is almost out, and the chaffinches are singing their socks off. Time for a public holiday, away with the marxist-leninist May Day and on with 23rd April, or maybe have both!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

love at first sight

Francis, ever the gallant, gives her a warm welcome. It is love at first sight as they swim away into the setting sun.

Let's hope they enjoy a long and happy life on our village pond.

Elizabeth the first arrives at Venterdon

Harriet arrives with the new duck, now named Elizabeth . At first she (the duck, that is) looked a little lost after the long journey from Launceston, but she was soon to meet the handsome Sir Francis, and life on the Venterdon duckpond would never be the same again.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring again

dog violet and may flower (or lady's smock, or cuckoo flower) making their first appearances of the year, everything's coming out for May (should be a song!).

Friday, April 19, 2013

a Spring walk 3

This is an unusual view of the little hamlet of Oldmill, until now hidden behind conifers. In the distance towards the skyline is the Temple (the folly, see some pictures earlier in the blog), the sheds of Alren farm below, and note the little pink house (Owl Wood) to the left, whose front door and avian inhabitants are shown below. A front door to die for I think.

a Spring walk 2

It was a sunny day of many firsts of this year, the first peacocks, the first brimstones, the first stitchworts, the first ramson flower, the first swallow (that we have seen, they have been back for a few days already), and possibly the first fritillary (glimpsed rather than seen). Brimstones are very fidgety and hard to photograph at this time of year but their vivid buttery yellow colour is unmistakeable against the brown colours of early Spring.

a Spring walk 1

The mallard squadron returns. Two drakes and a female showing off their fancy specula (?). the speculum (in birds) is a bright patch of coloured feathers on the upper wing (see link), purple in the drakes and blue in the females.

Up in Greenscombe meadows there is little evidence of any meadow flowers yet, except for a few solitary daffodils that indicate what these meadows were used for many years ago.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

camellia time

At long last the camellias are coming out in full. There is a bit of frost damage on some of the more exposed blossoms, and a female house sparrow is enjoying the view.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

old grey head

Jackdaws characteristically have an ash grey nape; the nape of this bird is much paler than usual and makes it (him?) look very distinctive. Meanwhile down in the lane the prisoners are planning the great escape.

Spot saw them safely back (without chasing them, I must add, given recent events).

sky church

On foggy nights the lighting on our church casts a strange palimpsest of the steeple in the sky. Royal Navy ships often carry vicars to sea. One of the fonder nicknames given to them is sky pilots. Perhaps this is where they work.

Monday, April 15, 2013

on a happier note

under the magnolia tree, a nest full of plump young blackbirds
And so life goes on.

death on the duck pond

A black and white springer spaniel was seen savaging the ducks on the duck pond this morning. The dog was not immediately identifiable and it may be new to the village. Two Duchy students who saw the attack very kindly stopped to give first aid, as did several neighbours. As a result of this attack the two old females were very seriously injured. One died at the scene, the other had to be euthanased  at the vets in Lezant. They gave a lot of pleasure to many people over the years and especially to the little children from the Ducklings nursery; it seems very sad their lives came to such a savage end.

It was only last week that I took great pleasure in photographing the two of them marking the arrival of Spring around the duckpond (see page).

Friday, April 12, 2013

oil beetle

we seem to be a local hot spot for the violet oil beetle. It likes this habitat of grass, wild flowers and leaf mould to be found on the edge of glades and woody hedgerows. This is a male, and he was warming up in the sun. Given their very complicated life cycle (qv, and link) it is amazing that they seem so common around here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pest (or pet), the lack of growth in the grass is driving the local warren inhabitants back into our gardens.

getting together

birds are busy pairing up ready for the breeding season. Male and female robins look very similar. They pair up in late winter/early spring. The female chases the male until he accepts her but then he cements the relationship by feeding her, often on the ground. Male and female bullfinches are strikingly different and much more secretive. They are described as 'sedentary' and rarely move far from their local patch.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

celandine heaven

What tells us when Spring is really here?
It's when the celandines are open everywhere.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

more excitement

first it's long tailed tits, and then it's red wings in the paddock. They are another of our winter migrant visitors, and normally they have left for Scandinavia by April. The cold dry weather seems to be upsetting these natural rhythms but enhancing the bird watcher's daily enjoyment.

relativity goes tits up

Our neighbours all report seeing long tailed tits regularly in their gardens but they seem to avoid our feeders (too full of hungry sparrows?) so it was very pleasing to see one (on the frozen apple tree) for the first time today.

two suggested universal laws of nature:-

1. Buy any garden furniture or barbecue equipment after 1st March  and it will rain incessantly until September.

2. Put some fertiliser and weed killer on a grass lawn and it will not rain again for several months.

Clearly these two laws must interact, and this would suggest that you should only buy garden furniture a day or so after fertilising the lawn, or conversely fertilising the lawn several hours after buying garden furniture. This may be one of those higher dimensional problems with a solution in an alternative universe.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

idyllic days

some days seem just perfect and today was one of those days, the ducks on the Venterdon duck pond overlooked by a bank of daffodils, primroses and celandine, and (below) a squadron of fieldfares taking off. They are winter visitors and will soon be off to their breeding grounds in southern central Europe.

Monday, April 01, 2013

what shall I eat next

one of my favourite things! The arrival of a female woodpecker in the garden suggests we might see some more soon.